The Parents' Guide to Every School Year

A Parent's Guide To Key Stage 3

Year 7/8

Years 7 and 8 present some big changes that your child (and you!) will have to get used to as quickly as possible.

School Life

  • Lessons will now be separated into more specific subjects, such as Geography and History.
  • New subjects, including Food Technology and foreign languages, will be introduced to your child.
  • Your child will have different teachers and classes for different subjects, as opposed to one teacher covering everything.
  • Lessons will take place in different classrooms, so your child will need to navigate around the campus.
  • Homework will increase, both in volume and complexity. A lot of it may also be submitted electronically.
  • Topics will be covered in greater depth.
  • Some secondary schools will have stricter uniform restrictions than primary schools.

Your Child

  • Your child will be expected to be more proactive when it comes to their learning.
  • If your child is attending a different school to their friends, then it may take a while to form a new friendship group.
  • The increased workload, and longer school days, may result in your child becoming more exhausted.
  • A wider range of extra-curricular activities will become available to your child, and you’ll probably have to foot the bill.
  • Your child will likely meet a wider range of people from different walks of life.
  • They’ll start to develop their personality further. Some kids, for example, will become more introverted or extroverted.
  • Your child may start to become more independent, and will want more space and time to themselves.


While there are no important exams in Year 7 or 8, schools may set their own tests throughout the two years. Some will also set tests at the start of Year 7. They’ll use the results of these tests, along with the KS2 SATs, to place pupils in the correct set.

Year 9

Year 9 presents one of the first major life decisions that your child will face: their GCSE options. While your child’s GCSE choices don’t necessarily determine the course of their life, they could impact their A-Level and career choices.

Here is everything you and your child need to know about choosing GCSEs.

How many GCSEs should my child take?

Most of the courses or jobs that your child will eventually be applying for will expect a minimum of five GCSEs graded 9 to 4.

Having said that, most kids will take nine or ten GCSEs in total.

Are any GCSE subjects compulsory?

Different schools will have slightly different rules, but essentially the three core subjects that your child has to take are English, Maths, and Science.

English is often split into English Language and English Literature. Science can also be taken as separate GCSEs in Physics, Chemistry, and Biology.

If you or your child is unsure, it’s best to check with your school.

When does my child need to choose their GCSE subjects?

The exact time-frame will differ from school to school. Obviously, your child will start studying their GCSEs in Year 10, so it will generally be some time around the middle of Year 9.

Some schools will even start GCSE preparation at the end of Year 9. In this case, your child might have to select their subjects slightly earlier.

You should check with your child’s school if you want to know the exact dates.

What GCSE subjects can my child choose from?

This is largely dependent on your child’s school. There are, however, various common GCSE subjects that your child will usually have access to:

Foreign languages — These often include German, French, and Spanish. Some schools will also offer courses in Mandarin or Russian. (Note that some schools make learning a language at GCSE compulsory.)

Arts subjects — As well as Art itself, these also include Music, Drama, or Media Studies.

Humanities subjects — These are often more traditional subjects, such as History or Geography.

Technical subjects — These subjects include Design Technology, Food Technology, or Computer Science.

My child doesn’t know which GCSE subjects to choose!

Choosing GCSE subjects can be difficult. A lot of teenagers have no idea what they want to do when they leave school, so there’s no way of deciding which GCSEs to study.

A good idea is for your child to simply choose subjects they enjoy. GCSEs are a big step up from any work they’ve done previously, so it’s important that they study subjects they’re actually interested in.

Most jobs and careers don’t require specific GCSE subjects so if your child doesn’t know what to do after school they don’t need to worry!

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